Have you ever rolled over and over in bed but couldn’t fall asleep? There are three simple yogic techniques you can try to overcome insomnia: legs-up-the-wall, Bumblebee breath, and body scan. These techniques are easy to apply and don’t need special training. Even just doing one of the approaches, you will receive the benefits.
The first technique is called “legs-up-the-wall.” I learned this from Susi Hately, who has a BSc in Kinesiology and is a yoga therapist trainer. This inverted pose releases the back of my legs, and I receive a power nap from its relaxing effect.
As the name indicates, you need a wall as well as a place that you can lie on. Thus, finding an empty wall that you can put your legs on and a space on the floor is your initial step. You then lie on your back and let your heels rest on the wall, with legs extended and knees soft. Your pelvis doesn’t have to touch the wall; just locate it on the ground in your comfortable position. Now, place your arms by the side of your torso. After you settle down, stay in the position for 5–20 minutes. While you stay with your legs up, you can focus on normal breathing. To come out of the position, bend your knees and slide your legs to one side, and then come to the seated position.
While legs-up-the-wall is a physical method for getting a good rest, the Bumblebee breath uses sound vibration as a tool to clear your mind. It’s perfect for the days when you feel overwhelmed with information. The Bumblebee breath (Bhamari Pranayama) is making a humming sound (M-M-M) like the murmuring of bees when you exhale. First, lie in bed on your back. Bring awareness to your breathing, making the sound as you breathe out. Repeat until you feel the thoughts in your mind are being cleared. For a greater effect while making the Bumblebee breath, you can combine it with closing up the sense organs in the face (Shanmukhi mudra). With the help of the mudra, what we hear is the humming sound only, which clears thoughts quickly and is very helpful for insomnia. Here is the way to apply Shanmukhi mudra:
- Block the sounds by closing your ears with your thumbs.
- Use your index fingers and middle fingers to cover your eyes gently.
- Put the ring fingers in the grooves of the nose and bring awareness to breathing.
- Put the little fingers at the corner of your mouth.
If you already sleep late and don’t want to bother others with the Bumblebee breath noise, you can try the third technique, the body scan. The body scan is a powerful relaxation yoga method. You can scan either from the head down to the feet, or reverse from the feet up to the head, whatever feels right for you. Since it’s for better sleep, you start the body scan lying in bed and cover yourself well. Next, bring attention to one part of your body and say to yourself, “Relax.” For example, think about your feet, and ask your feet to relax. Go through the whole body with this process and repeat when needed.
Legs-up-the-wall, an inverted posture; Bumblebee breath, a sound vibration; and body scan, a relaxation. All three of these techniques are very helpful for sound sleep. You can use one of them or apply them all. Note that you not only apply these methods when you need to, but also implement them regularly. With consistent practice, you will continue to get a good sleep!
- Susi Hately Aldous, Advancing Your Yoga Practice: The Art of Slowing Down (Functional Synergy Press, 2008), 34.
- B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga (London: Thorsons, 2001), 102, 378.
- Swami Vishnu-devananda, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988), 199.
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